The next iPhone needs to be wider. Galaxy S III and Razr Maxx HD is proof enough of that

The next iPhone needs to be wider. I have come to this conclusion after much use and, more importantly, much user observation. The success of giant screen smartphones like Galaxy S III, HTC One X and the appropriately named Razr Maxx HD shows me that people really like huge displays, usability be damned.

I have spent a good deal of time watching people pick a smartphone. A majority of buyers reflexively choose the larger screen. This is probably not a surprise. Go to an electronics retailer, for example, and watch customers staring at television sets. The big, bright, color-intense screens always draw the most favorable responses.  Oooh!  Ahhh!

The problem with this, of course, is that unlike a television, we carry our smartphones with us, always. A big screen is too bulky. It consumes too much power. Those “over washed” colors quickly become distracting, making games and websites, for example, look not as crisp when viewed up close. Movies can seem stretched. Apps are rarely optimized across this ever-expanding screenscape. Here, I stand with Apple. For optimum use, optimized viewing and a superior experience, the iPhone 5 and its ‘smaller’ 4-inch display is simply better, and much more in line with my actual needs.

That’s why I always tell those in the market for a smartphone to not be so easily swayed by a big, bright screen. I have long assumed that they will come to regret their decision in the days, weeks and months of everyday usage. But I was wrong.

What I have noticed is that most people – in my experience – are willing to accept all the negatives of a device that is too big, too bulky, and consumes battery power much too quickly because they want – as with televisions – a really big screen. Display trumps usability, build quality, ease of use and ecosystem.

If the user can hold the device in one hand, they want the biggest screen possible, period. All the usability studies in the world, it seems, can’t change the fact that us mere mortals are drawn to big and bright like moths to a flame.

Understand, I am not asking for Apple to make the iPhone wider for my sake. I have used every top-of-the-line device on every major platform. The iPhone is the best. Actually, I don’t even think it’s a close contest. For ease of use, functionality, integration, media, gaming, build quality, support and the overall value of the ecosystem, iPhone is simply second to none.

Ever since the original iPhone launched the “smartphone wars” in 2007, iPhone has led the pack. Everyone else is still playing catch-up. No single company (or competing ecosystem) even comes close to generating the revenues and profits from its entire smartphone line-up that just the iPhone 5 contributes to Apple. Nonetheless, and despite its status as the world’s most popular smartphone, Apple needs to make the iPhone wider.

I realize that on its face, my view appears to make no sense. iPhone 5 has a gorgeous 4-inch, 1136×640 (326 PPI) display. Look at it, use it, the iPhone is simply amazing. With the possible exception of Nokia, which sadly has become increasingly irrelevant, no company focuses more on design and usability for its mobile devices than Apple.

The iPhone, like most smartphones, is carried with us everyday, everywhere we go. We use our smartphones to send off a short text, check the weather, update our Facebook status, play a game, read a book, watch a movie and much much more. Sometimes, we even use them to make phone calls. Apple has carefully studied how we use smartphones across different user types and use cases and given us a product that fits into our actual usage perfectly.

Far too many devices are simply ridiculously large. For the dozen times a day we use our smartphones – or hundreds – day after day, usability is at least as important as build quality and price. Some of these large-screen devices are simply too heavy, too bulky, and require two hands or thumbs when only one is better and faster. They fall into the trap that bigger is better. Apple, thankfully, understands this. Their devices are not merely more intuitive, not merely more functional, they are simply easier to use and manipulate. I don’t want to lose that.

There is also the ‘permanence’ factor that iPhone uniquely delivers. That Android smartphone you purchased just last month may not even come with the latest Android OS. It may never have it! If there is a problem with the device, who do you call? Who supports it? How safe is that app you are about to download? These fears are virtually non-existent with iPhone. Nearly every single app, every song, every movie, nearly every game, works on almost every single iPhone ever made. That is a level of security – and value – that no Android or Windows Phone owner can ever experience.

With all of this, why then do I suggest iPhone needs to be wider?

Because in this case, Apple’s values – which nearly always align with the customer’s – do not align. At least, I don’t think so. Regardless of whatever Apple designers believe, regardless of what it will mean to existing apps and content, display trumps usability.

The iPhone is Citizen Kane to Android’s Transformers. Like it or not, and I mean no disrespect to anyone, but most people prefer big and loud and want lots of explosions. Apple can’t ignore this.


Author: Brian S Hall

Brian S Hall writes about technology, immortality and food for ReadWrite, Techpinions, Unwired View and other publications. His thoughts on the 'smartphone wars' and how these are rapidly de-constructing markets, industries, business models and relationships around the world can be found on his personal site at

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  • Bogdan Petrovan

    Boy, you’re smug.

  • Sean Lumly

    This is a really poorly written article founded upon half-baked conjecture. The following speaks for itself:

    “The problem with [larger screens], of course, is that unlike a television, we carry our smartphones with us, always. A big screen is too bulky. It consumes too much power. Those “over washed” colors quickly become distracting, making games and websites, for example, look not as crisp when viewed up close. Movies can seem stretched. Apps are rarely optimized across this ever-expanding screenscape”

  • Chris Clark

    If you have ” I have used every top-of-the-line device on every major platform.”
    Then you sir have been going through 3-5 phones a year. Hardly enough time to become used to the device in hand. This is why people enjoy the iphone… never a learning curve… its been just about the same as it always has.. unlike android who have continued to innovate and create new devices with new features, styles and sizes…. I agree with you in one thing… apple better pull out a few tricks or they will be “a close second to some”

  • Hans

    Are you sponsored by Apple?

  • Les Morton

    I don’t dispute that people are drawn to larger screens, but, I wonder how they think about them after day to day use? I for one, and I know many other people who feel the same, DO NOT WANT APPLE TO MAKE iPAD sized screen as smart phones. I know you aren’t saying that, but the point for the phone is that it easily fits in your pocket (without the bulge) and fits comfortably in one hand and can be used with one hand. Three phones ago, I had an HTC top of the line smart phone. I had it for almost tow years and it had a bigger screen that the iPhone 4 I ended up getting. I immediately noticed that I no longer had to use 2 hands to do the most basic functions, and I actually did not miss the larger screen.

    I actually heard a younger mother who is going to be buying an iPhone (she now has some android phone) and she said she wasn’t going to buy the iPhone 5 because the screen was bigger, she wanted the smaller screen of the 4s. She has smaller hands and this may be why.

  • Jake Brandon

    Really? Have you forgotten Samsung kicking Apples ass? That the most popular phone is the Galaxy S3? That Apple threw a fit the minute they were no longer #1 and started getting sue happy on things that were just plain stupid while releasing a phone and tablet that were copies of multiple Android devices and calling it “new” and “exciting”?

  • Nexus Killer

    Not sure what planet you have been hiding on foe a long while now. I own the SGS3 and I do not have any problems what so ever with apps and this screen. Nor do I have a problem with my Note 2 or my Xoom. You sir or miss are mid informed. And to say that you have used that many phones is nothing short of exaggerated garbage. iPhone has been and is the same across its years of nearly nil upgrades. I will say it does in most cases hold the award for build quality and accessories. But that is because it is one phone from one company. Yes, they do a good job. But to say that others fall under the the cheese mints of the iPhone is very poor and misleading. Again the SGS3, Note 2, Xoom, Thunderbolt, Rezound and the Droid 1 has never been or had a problem. That would be an app development problem when it comes to screen size. Nor would it be the fault of Android. Another thing, Every app that I own on these devices works perfectly. And this is from real experience. Not some mid guided lie of a statement. You clearly as an fanboy. As am I. And there is nothing wrong with that. But the difference is I and others like me on Apple and Androids sides can admit and not bash other products because we feel cheated or what have you. Please, go work at McDonalds where your real talents will shine behind the register or the gril. Good day. P.S. Nexus devices suck! Lack of mSD and a massive push towards the cloud make it so. Apple, Android/Google and any other company, keep your greedy little hands off of my info/data. There, I even just bashed the platform that I like so much.

  • Brian S Hall

    Troll aspects of your comment aside, we definitely agree on the Nexus. I was using the Nexus 4 last week. This is the ‘showcase’ device for Android. It is the attempt by giant LG to become relevant in the smartphone world. And, frankly, it’s shite compared to, yes, iPhone 5, but also even to HTC and probably Samsung. No excuses for that.

  • Brian S Hall

    This has long been my view. But the more I speak with people, the more I show them the *usability* benefits of a device more correctly sized, the more plainly they respond that they want a bigger screen. Big screen trumps almost everything, it seems. I don’t understand it but the market is what it is.

  • bm

    I recently purchased the RAZR HD and I couldn’t be happier. What you said about the big screen and battery correlation is completely irrelevant in this case. This phone outlasts the iPhone in battery tenfold. And build quality? That must be a joke that the iPhone is higher quality than the RAZR HD. I have used the iPhone and there is not a single thing I like or is more functional than mine. You sir/ma’am are misinformed.

  • mr50caliber

    The I phone 5 screen is horrendous the fact that fanboys refuse to see the lack of innovation. Its jaw dropping. You say its not just the big screen they want its also the comfort knowing every 15 year old girl doesn’t a have the same phone as you. People dont look cool with a iphone thay look like posers who are just following the flock of teens with the Iphone. Its sad that they think the longer screen is somehow better? Dont u know movies are filmed in widescreen? Not wide skinny screen? Look at I pad every movie u watch on it is doctored. Ima have fun on my huge galaxy s3 screen that fits in every pocket I own :)

  • mr50caliber

    Thumbs up

  • mr50caliber

    Sad little world u live in when the nexus 4 is you android showcase? When u look at a phone do u think before u talk? The nexus isnt even relevant at all. Stop trying to justify apple and look at the phone market today.

  • dom

    Hilarious comment regarding the portability of music.. with Jelly bean I can pick and chose my media player which plays ALL industry standard video / sound formats.. I prefer to drag and drop my media or auto sync with dropbox, or Google play (20,000 tunes storage for free) so I can stream directly from the cloud… to any device inc my Sonos. Best of all, no iTunes.
    Can you play your music from your iPhone on any of my non Apple industry standard kit? Not sure what the author is trying to sell there..?

  • Brian S Hall

    “With Jelly Bean…”
    What percentage of all Google-activated Android devices have or will have Jelly Bean ever? 5%? 10%?

  • Brian S Hall

    I think your beef is with Google then.

  • ido2

    I thought the Most popular phone is iPhone? While Samsung is the largest phone seller, which doesn’t mean G SIII is the most popular. G S III had taken a lead in one month, but annualized sale of iPhone is still larger, simply because Apple sells only one key device.

  • Brendan

    Retarded article written by a retarded fanboy. Typical apple scum.

  • Nexus Killer

    I troll it like I see it. But isn’t that the proper way? It is just sad that the OP is the ultimate troll here. Granted he started the convo in the first place. But a troll non the less. My presence here can only make things better. I believe that I put a nice balance to the whole OP trolling ordeal. I mean, you should not eat peanut butter without jelly. Or at the least fluff. It’s just how the world turns. Another thing, I have come to a decision. If you call another out for being a troll, then you to are some what of a troll for trolling the troll who trolled the original troll. But that could be debated if one would like. But mind you, in order to debate this idea. One will have to bring physics to the table.
    And if you are coming to the table. Please be nice and bring dinner.

  • JDSoCal

    As BSH alluded to, the majority of Android users are 3-4 versions behind, and likely couldn’t figure out a way to install Jelly Bean even if their carrier allowed it or their phone supported it (unlikely, since even some *2011* Android phones do not):

    Meanwhile, my 27-month old iPhone 4 is running the latest, iOS 6, like 72% of Apple users.

  • JDSoCal

    I take exception to calling BSH a fanboy.

  • JDSoCal

    I can barely fit my 3.5″ screen in my jeans pocket. Why would I want larger than 4″?

  • JDSoCal

    Ha, perhaps the S3 did well (impossible to say for sure, since Samsung is so opaque about real sales numbers), against a two-year-old design, but we’ll see in January which single phone is most dominant (hint: made by a firm in Cupertino, CA).

  • JDSoCal

    And BTW, Apple’s profit margins are twice Samsung’s.Samsung would trade places with Apple in a SECOND. But of course they can’t, so they make cheap copies.

  • CupcakeKiller

    Just a little fact for you. Just like the majority of Android users. Apple iPhone and iPad and iAnything have as much of a clue as the latter. But just like the notch market of jailbreakers there is the same for Android. And I have JB on my original Droid. And it runs quite fine. The processor can handle it quite well. And if any one tells me that there is jot enough onboard memory or space to do so. I can do something to most android hardware. And that is upgrade its RAM and MMC chips. But, there is not a market for such endeavors at this time. Any way. Chill out bro. Or Hipster or toilet junk. Or what ever you like. OK cupcake? Don’t cry.

  • nosexwithanimalsperson

    Don’t wear jeans that hug your nuts. We don’t want to see your nuts. And if you are a female, I don’t want to see your vajayjay through the jeans as well. Have some self respect. Though I doubt you ever will. And stop having sex with animals.

  • blob

    Homes, Apples are to eat. Not to talk into. And ice cream sandwiches are in that category as well. What is up with this food obsessed world. To many fatties rolling around here. I think I saw one trying to eat their iPhone the other day. Hell, that thing is shaped like an Ice Creamb Sandwich. I think Google should sue over that fact. Actually I think God should sue mankind for infringement on everything. Man kind, you are a bunch of dumb asses! Get a clue. Flipping money grabbing idiots. Keep shooting for all your stuff. Keep thinking all that stuff is going to bring you happiness. Its just distracting you. But whatever, you will all find out very soon.

  • Suckas

    Some people see dead people. I see fat people. They sit at their desks and type on blogs and masterbate to fluffy kittens. WTF!? Seriously!? That is how it is going to go down!? I’m outta here suckas!

  • JDSoCal

    Could someone please translate this to English, so I could respond to this gentleman?

  • SlutBut

    I’m gonna tear down the Halls! Lol! Apple slut! Take it in the but!

  • Brian S Hall

    Masturbate to or with? Really — huge difference.

  • Nuhj Jose Moralla

    Stop crying already and get your self a big phone. With super amoled screen quad core processor.. 2gb ram.. replacable battery and upgradable storage by getting sd card. A descent google map on it and a gadget that has a builtin flash player.. hey apple cry baby have u ever tried live streaming on your phone ? guess not! Lmao.. hey buddy you just lost the online deal to get the phone for $49.99 last friday.. the galaxy s3 that has everything youbwish u have on your outdated phone! Hello isheeps.. hahahahaha.. don’t erase this message plsss.

  • enyibinakata

    Usual Apple polishing by Brian, nothing to see.

  • Rynoc

    I own 3 apple devices and now 4 android. To say all apps work on all I phones ever is simply wrong. The 3 does not run over 1/4 of my apps now. The 4S has several bugs with ios6. Not to mention since upgrading some apps simply dissapeared. Apple says they are no longer compatible.

    No product is perfect. IOS has a much smaller learning curve than android. It also has better limits set on apps and subsequently users. That’s why I am mostly on android now though. I grew up…Apple stopped growing since they already found nirvana.

    Opinions aside, I did not buy a larger screen for the wow factor. It is easier on my eyes. I find the same format factor is my size limit for a phone. Fits in my back pocket, not front. Can use in one hand. The screen name is bright enough and has great colors. Still can’t believe devices like the noteii is @ phone. But give credit to the manufacturer for giving people a choice. That is something Apple never did.

  • surethom

    We dont need a iphone as wide as the Galaxy s3 it is just TOO wide, if the Galaxy s3 was 5mm or 1cm less wide it would have sold way more.

  • sane

    this apple fanboy doesn’t know shit, even though he is one, the type that was vomited out of a camels anus, all he does is sit on hes computer desk and brag on about a fruit company, with very false titles making it seem like he is against apple, then he goes on and on about hes stupid thoughts, making it seem like hes opinions will change the world, really sad. he describes apple iPhone 5 as “gorgeous 4-inch” have u sucked your iPhone yet u homo? and how the f**** do you now how apple thinks? unless you can tell me apple pays u. and btw “a bigger screen” its what YOU want, stupid jealous f*** .

  • sam

    So this is you presenting your blubbering over the iPhone as fact? This is basically an irrelevant fanboy post…the s3 out sold the iPhone 5 because it’s bigger, and better. IPhone is simply boring as hell to some people, and restricted.

  • Guest

    Sweet Jesus, you are a total moron!! If your iPhone can’t do more with an update, why would you even want that update?! Besides, why do you want to compete? 5% of all android phones is many times more than your 7-10 iDevices. Just keep drinking your cool aid without writing so much crap!


    Are you that stupid thinking that apple is ahead of the game? They lack in features! Sure the simplicity of using the device is for retards with apps for everything and one button to go home. I have the iPhone 4. Sold my android for it and dearly miss it since.

  • PatrickB

    I recently upgraded from the iPhone 4 to the 5, and, while the extra real estate of the 4″ screen is nice – from a ‘usability’ stance it is actually a step back. Why? I can’t reach the top left corner of the screen with my thumb to hit the buttons which many apps and iOS functions have placed in that location. I imagine there are a lot of other people having the same issue – the average human hand is only so big and the thumb can only reach so far, for one handed operation. So I understand that big screens seem to be the future, but I hope Apple does some additional work on usability (even at 4″ size) and adjusts iOS to better handle one handed operation – before they make it taller OR wider.

  • ITG

    I think you are oversimplifying the issue a bit. Yes, a wider screen is a little harder to use for your average person. But it doesn’t just come down to screen size, and screen size isn’t just a compulsive need.

    For instance, I don’t have a tablet, and my home desktop is set up to serve primarily as a media pc. I have a linux netbook, but it’s a pain to pull it out for every little thing, or to carry it around if I’m not planning on using it intensively. The larger screen on the GS3 provides me with a more pleasurable and easier experience when I wish to browse, check email, or read on the go. Yes, it’s better for viewing videos as well- I upgraded from an iPhone 4, so it was a bit dated, but it is a huge improvement- but truthfully I don’t watch many videos on my phone. Text is by far my most consumed medium, and reading is simply more natural on the GS3.

    It helps that I am what can only be described as a large man. I’m tall, and have the big feet and hands to match. I had little difficulty adjusting to the larger size format. And while I’m not a giant with thumbs that can reach the top corner of the opposite side of the screen, I haven’t noticed the lack at all. I attribute this to the dedicated menu button in the bottom left, a feature I really wish the iPhone had had. It makes operating much smoother once you realize, hey, this is a thing I can use, with everything. Also, I have no idea how this phone can’t fit in a man’s pocket. It might be a bit on the wide side, but it is still very flat. I can see a woman having this issue as they tend to wear tighter pants and are generally smaller, but then, most women I know carry their phone in their purse or a jacket anyway. The smaller hands are probably a bigger issue.

    And like I said, it’s not all about screen size. I wouldn’t say I’m a techie, but I like to tinker. The iPhone didn’t offer much in that way sans jailbreaking, and, as my tinkering is more of a casual interest than a need for me, I didn’t really want to void my warranty on the sundry iPhone I’ve had. The original 3GS battery failed surprisingly suddenly and needed to be replaced, and the speakers of the 4 utterly failed one day. A phone that won’t give you the other end of a conversation without headphones is practically useless, so I had to have it serviced again (“serviced” here translating as backed up, replaced, and the old one sent back to be refurbished and resold or replace someone else’s problem phone). So I’m glad I never jailbroke them. The Galaxy S 3, on the other hand, gives me more latitude out of the box to satisfy my curiosity, and maybe I will go ahead and root it- depends on how well it performs over the long term. I probably won’t, because I do like warranties, but I don’t need to to do a little bit of fooling around.

    And yeah, replaceable, upgradeable storage and battery makes a difference. Like I said, I don’t watch many movies on my phone and so have always contented myself with having Netflix and Xfinity apps for streaming if I really wanted to watch something, which is useless on, say, a plane. I didn’t want to waste either the space to keep media on the device or time putting it on and taking it off whenever I wanted to change what I had. Now, I can get a different SD card to just hold media. I won’t always carry it with me, but it will be much easier to bring it along and snap it in for extended trips.

    Oveirall, in the short time I’ve had the my new SGS3, I’ve been very impressed with it. It’s different from iOS, certainly, and as a long time iOS user it took a little getting used to, but no more than when I first picked up the iPhone to achieve similar functionality. The beauty is, there’s still a lot more function I can pull out of this device. A popular phrasing of Ockham’s Razor is “As simple as it needs to be but no simpler.” Now, admittedly, this is an oversimplification itself to the point where it’s almost a different idea altogether , but in its own right is a valid philosophy. Something that my time since I got my Galaxy has taught me is that Apple did actually make it simpler than it needed to be. The GS3 is instead simple out of the box with more layers of complexity if you want them. Perfect for the Leroy Chiao in me.

    Truth be told, the greatest indictment on this page against my android phone is your unfortunate linking pane with Likes from Facebook. It popped up at the least opportune times, either blocking what I was typing or, worse, getting in the way when scrolling and opening a new page. It’s what I get for forgetting to turn desktop pages back on in my browser, though, and potentially this issue exists on iPhone as well.

    (If you have tried such a wide variety of phones but unequivocally prefer the iPhone, then don’t you most likely use it as your main, day-to-day phone and never have a chance to really get used to other size formats and operating systems? Just a thought.)

  • love my NEW S3

    switched from the iPhone 4 to the galaxy s3 and LOVE IT. wont be going back to iphone UNTIL its bigger. period.

  • Brian S Hall

    Was that the primary reason for switching? Screen size?

  • Brian S Hall

    Thanks for the feedback.

  • Trunkmonkey

    I’m reading this on my S3 with one hand, typing my response with that very thumb. Don’t like the color calibration? There’s an app for that. I use one which allows brightness sub zero (down to black dark) and includes night mode color temp control. Is your tv from Best Buy still set on store demo mode? Jeez. Play with it and make it yours! There’s way more to tweak and customize than Apple bestows on its followers. I’ve used an iph5 side by side and both me and my buddy had a “sorry, dude” moment as I took him on a butter-paved highway to jellybean bliss. Spend a week with an s3. Going back to 4″,do matter the extra 22 ppi, is painful.

  • Trunkmonkey

    Try the mini. Most of the horsepower and all the tiny hands delight!

  • Droidkin

    Patrick…I am not sure I want to know what you are doing with that other hand…that dictates as the number one standard for a SMARTPHONE must be one handed use only….but I am going to venture there anyway. Modern smartphones…not 2007 vintage smartphones…are wonders of capability. And almost all those capabilities benefit from larger screen size. There is very little reason to invest in a modern smartphone if you are going to limit its usability through screen size.

    So here goes…..what are you doing with that other hand…that you only have one hand to operate your iPhone?

  • def4

    You should know better than this by now, Brian.
    Apple does what they think is right and best, not what everyone else is doing.

    Do you want a wide iPhone? A QWERTY iPhone? An ugly cheap Mac?
    Build them yourself and make a killing selling them if they really are so badly wanted.

  • Hannah McKay

    I see everyone with gs3 too. Android users are sheep too and all want the newest hardware.

  • FrillArtist

    “The iPhone is the best. Actually, I don’t even think it’s a close contest. For ease of use, functionality, integration, media, gaming, build quality, support and the overall value of the ecosystem, iPhone is simply second to none.”

    Based on purely subjective thoughts. Then again, this is Unwired. Basically an Apple media echo chamber. I can’t wait for Google News to allow blocking of sites so I can stop seeing these apple biased articles in my news feed. I know you have to keep your apple commission every month but this is just really pathetic.